Thursday, December 27, 2012

Celebrating the Holidays Despite a Cancer Diagnosis

It is my pleasure to post this message
from a husband and wife who wanted to share
their experience with you ~

By: Cameron Von St James

My wife gave birth to our only child, Lily, in August of 2005. We were already looking forward to the joy that the winter holidays would bring. I have always looked forward to the opportunity to spend the holidays celebrating with the ones I love. I have always been thankful for being blessed with so many amazing people in my life. Heather and I had already started talking about the holiday traditions we wanted to pass on to our little one, and the new ones we would start as a family.

Unfortunately, our holiday spirit and excitement were stamped out just three days before Thanksgiving, when Heather was diagnosed with cancer. Our daughter was less than four months old at the time of the diagnosis. We learned that Heather had malignant pleural mesothelioma, and in an instant our focus shifted from turkey and holiday shopping to fighting a rare and very deadly form of cancer.

I was filled with anger and fear after the diagnosis. Everything that had seemed so positive, everything I seemed so sure about disappeared in an instant. I tried my best to remain positive and hopeful, but my mind went straight to fearing for the worst. I had thoughts of losing my wife and growing old as a single father. I felt that I had little to be thankful for that year.

Despite the horrible news, we did have a Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration with my wife’s family. The family discussed all the ways they would support us in this trying time.  I had been dreading this discussion for days.  We talked about money and childcare. Heather and I had previously both been working, but we were now reduced to living on my income alone, and the diagnosis brought with it a wealth of unexpected expenses that we were not equipped to handle.  Heather’s parents went through our finances with us and helped us figure out what we could liquidate to stay afloat, as well as what they could afford to help us pay for.  I was mortified and embarrassed, and once again I felt that I had nothing to be thankful for. It would be years before I could look back on that day with anything but shame.

Now, however, I can see how very mistaken I was to look at it that way.  Looking back, I can see how truly blessed we were to have such a strong and loving family supporting us through our tough time.  My pride and my fear blinded me to that at the time, but now I can see how very much I had to be thankful for that season.

This holiday season, I will not let go of that memory of our family gathered around, communicating and helping each other. I will keep in mind everything that I have to be thankful for. I have more than many people will ever have; I am surrounded by kindness, love and good friends. Lily is healthy and as usual, this year will revolve around surrounding her with fun holiday traditions.

In the end, with the love and support of our incredible community of friends and family, Heather beat her mesothelioma. She beat all the odds stacked against her, and we have celebrated numerous holidays together since her diagnoses. We are looking forward to many more together in the future.  We hope that our story of success can help all those currently fighting cancer find something in their lives to be thankful for this holiday season.

Husband of Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. James
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  1. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I don't know much about mesothelioma, and I hope I never need to. I especially liked reading the "male spin" - my husband is not a good communicator and my cancer has been difficult for him.

    1. I'm so sorry you are also going through cancer. It is very important for caregivers to find support as well. I may have some links under "Resources" to help. Good luck to you and may your New Year bring healing!


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